Multi-millionaire mining magnate and Swansea boy made good Grenville Thomas has voiced his opposition to a wind farm that threatens to overshadow his childhood home.
Although now living in the Canadian city of Vancouver, having made his fortune harvesting the natural resources of the vast country, the 74-year-old has never forgotten his roots and is even said to have built an exact replica of the Red Lion in Morriston, which his great-grandmother used to run.
Mr Thomas, who started his working life as a coal miner in his home city, has sent a message of support to campaigners who tried to block a new wind farm being built to the north of Swansea on Mynydd y Gwair.
In his message he said: “In my opinion and the opinion of most of my business associates, the whole wind farm business is a huge con job where the investors in such things are guaranteed returns which they cannot get anywhere else.
“And that money comes from the taxpayer!
“All these schemes will end up costing very large amounts of money with no particular effect on the climate. And Wales and places like it will bear the brunt of the pillaging of what little countryside remains.”
Mr Thomas, who was awarded an Honorary Degree from Swansea University two years ago, graduated from Cardiff University in 1964 with a degree in mining engineering and chose to cross the Atlantic and seek his fortune in Canada. After an apprenticeship at tough nickel mines in Falconbridge, Sudbury, Ontario and then at the Giant Mines in Yellowknife in Canada’s North West Territories, he decided to strike out on his own.
He founded the Toronto-based Aber Diamond Corporation (named after Abertawe, Swansea).
In the mid-1990s, they struck it rich by discovering the huge Diavik diamond mine. After a series of wise trading moves, Mr Thomas became one of the wealthiest men in Canada.
Mawr councillor Ioan Richard, who has opposed the development of wind farms in his ward, welcomed Mr Thomas’s support.
He said: “As a major businessman, who is bigger than Sir Terry Mathews, he can see through the folly of wind farms.”
Mr Richard added: “He grew up in the shadow of the mountain and as a young man, when he was an apprentice collier in Craig Cefn Parc, he used to cross Mynydd y Gwair once a week on his motorcycle going to Ammanford Technical College.
Swansea Council has granted planning permission for Innogy Renewables to construct a 16 turbine wind farm on Mynydd y Gwair.
Gwenllian Elias, renewable developer at Innogy said earlier this month: “We have always endeavoured to listen to local people throughout the development of the Mynydd y Gwair wind farm project.
“Whilst we have made the decision to build a wind farm with a lower capacity, we have decided to maintain the highest community fund amount. We believe that this is the right thing for us to do.
“Mynydd y Gwair wind farm represents a substantial capital investment. We are also working hard to ensure that suppliers based in the region can win contracts from the construction work and that the project supports local jobs where possible.”